Strategies for a Successful End of Semester

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

In academics as with many other aspects of life, successful performance requires a series of steps over time that may or may not appear to be connected.

With multiple deadlines,  projects, exams,  etc all due around the same time; the end of the semester can be a high stress time for students.

Luckily there are a series of science-backed strategies that students can apply to be their best physically, mentally, cognitively, and emotionally to maximize chances of academic success.

What health related activities should I INCREASE my chances of academic success at the end of the semester?

Here are 5 things to increase:

  1. Improve your sleep because poor sleep and poor grades go together (with resources to improve sleep):

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/12/31/poor-sleep-and-poor-grades-might-go-together/

  1. Fruit and vegetable consumption improves mental/emotional well-being:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/03/25/fruits-and-vegetables-might-increase-your-odds-of-mental-well-being/

  1. Consider adding these brainpower boosting foods: http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/04/30/food-for-academic-brain-power/
  2. Consider Practicing gratitude exercises to feel better fast: http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/05/31/gratitude-exercises-to-feel-better-fast/
  3. Improve stress management: http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/01/dealing-with-too-much-stress/

What health related activities should I DECREASE to improve my chances of academic success at the end of the semester?

Here are 5  things to decrease:

  1. Too much caffeine worsens stress level and brain function:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/04/19/study-caffeine-stress-and-brain-function/

  1. Excessive digital media usage can worsen inattention symptoms:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/08/30/digital-media-and-inattention-symptoms/

  1. Reduce/avoid alcohol intake because it can impact your academic performance:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/02/26/alcohol-and-grades/

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/06/21/study-alcohol-might-cause-brain-changes/

  1. Cannabis can negatively impact your brain:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2014/11/17/marijuana-4-hidden-costs-to-consider/

  1. Nicotine use can increase depression and anxiety:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/04/15/does-smoking-increase-anxiety-and-depression-if-i-quit-will-i-feel-better/

Additional resources if your functioning is limited by your mental health, or if you need additional help:

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

 

Gratitude strategies to feel better fast

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

One definition of gratitude is a state of mind where one feels and expresses thankfulness consistently over time and across situations (1).

Gratitude exercises can be quick, easy and can help improve happiness, stress, and depression (2, 3).

A study of 814 college students showed that students with higher gratitude levels were less depressed, had lower suicidal-ideation, and higher self-esteem (4).

What are some ways to use gratitude strategies/exercises to feel better fast?

  • Quick gratitude journal: write one or more things that you are grateful for on a daily basis.  As a way to make it part of a daily routine, could you consider thinking about gratitude during an activity that you do everyday.  Learn more here.
  • Consider giving 1 genuine compliment per day to someone.
  • Could you make a bulletin board with images and words that make you feel grateful.  This could be placed where you could see it regularly.
  • When walking, could you consider using your 5 senses to find something that you are grateful for?
  • A book about positive psychology: Authentic Hapiness by Martin Seligman.
  • Harvard’s link on gratitude exercise (click then scroll down the page):  http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

What are some resources to improve mental health?

Some people may need to practice this for a while before seeing major benefits.

Could gratitude practices help you feel better?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Emmons, R. A. & Crumpler, C. A. (2000). Gratitude as a human strength:
    Appraising the evidence. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19, 56–69.
  2. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/12/
  3. Oleary K, Dockray S. The Effects of Two Novel Gratitude and Mindfulness Interventions on Well-Being. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE. Volume 21, Number 4, 2015, pp. 243–245.
  4. Lin CC. The relationships among gratitude, self-esteem, depression, and suicidal
    ideation among undergraduate students.  Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 2015, 56, 700–707. DOI: 10.1111/sjop.12252

Weight-lifting, exercise, and mental health

While the benefits of exercise on physical health are well known; exercise has many other benefits.

In particular, resistance training, like weight lifting, is not just about being fit or muscular, it can also improve emotional and mental health.

A large study looked at resistance training and anxiety.

What was the study?

This was review of 16 studies looking at resistance training like lifting weights.

Who was studied?

922 participants.

What was measured?

Validated anxiety outcome measures prior to, at mid-point, and after a period of resistance training.

What were the results?

  • Resistance training significantly reduced anxiety symptoms (Δ = 0.31, 95% CI 0.17–0.44; z = 4.43; p < 0.001).
  • Larger effects were found among healthy participants (Δ = 0.50, 95% CI 0.22–0.78) compared to participants with a physical or mental illness (Δ = 0.19, 95% CI 0.06–0.31, z = 2.16, p < 0.04).
  • Effect sizes did not  vary much according to sex, program or session length, frequency or intensity.

What are some other mental health benefits of exercise?

  • A review of 15 years of research shows that exercise can improve brain function (4)
  • A study of 33,000 people over 11 years demonstrated that exercise may prevent depression with 1-2 hours PER WEEK of exercise (5).
  • May help reduce alcohol use disorder (6)
  • Reduce chronic fatigue (7)
  • Improve sleep (8)

How much should I exercise?

The recommended exercise duration according to The National Institute of Health’s “Physical activity guidelines for Americans” (9, 10):

  • For moderate intensity activity, 20 to 42 minutes a day (150minutes to 300 minutes per week).
  • For vigorous intensity activity, 10 to 21 minutes a day (75 to 150 minutes a week).

What are some examples of moderate and vigorous intensity activities? (9, 10)

  • Some examples of moderate intensity activities include walking, water aerobics, slow bike rides, etc.
  • Some examples of vigorous intensity activities include jogging/running, Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster, lifting weights/resistance band training.

What are some precautions?

  • It may be best to check with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s safe for you’re to start an exercise program.
  • It may be wise to stop exercise and seek professional help if you notice:
    • Increased depression, disordered eating, and other mental health concerns.
    • Injury, pain, or decreased motivation
    • Obsessive behaviors
    • Other symptoms.
  • Exercise may not help without proper nutrition.
  • It may be wise to learn about proper nutrition and proper exercise technique, and exercise/nutrition plans, before starting to exercise.
  • It may be helpful to gradually start exercising to give yourself time to adjust to an active lifestyle.
  • It might take weeks months or longer for some people to get used to and enjoy the minimum activity guidelines.
  • Occasional periods without exercise may be important to prevent injury.
  • Figuring out what works best for you may give you lasting benefits.

Any useful resources on campus?

Any other useful links?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Gordon, B.R., McDowell, C.P., Lyons, M. et al. Sports Med (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0769-0
  2. The Effects of Resistance Exercise Training on Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.
  3. https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/RTandMentalHealth.html
  4. O’Connor, P.J., Herring, M.P. and Carvalho, A. (2010). Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396.
  5. Koščak Tivadar, B. Biogerontology (2017) 18: 477. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10522-017-9708-6. Physical activity improves cognition: possible explanations.
  6. Harvey SB, Øverland S, Hatch SL, Wessely S, Mykletun A, Hotopf M. Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study.   Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Oct 3:appiajp201716111223. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16111223. [Epub ahead of print]
  7. Hallgren, Mats et al. “More Reasons to Move: Exercise in the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorders.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 8 (2017): 160. PMC. Web. 20 Oct. 2017.
  8. Larun L, Brurberg KG, Odgaard-Jensen J, Price JR. Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003200. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003200.pub7.
  9. Kovacevic A, Mavros Y, Heisz JJ, Fiatarone Singh MA. The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep Med Rev. 2017 Jul 19. pii: S1087-0792(16)30152-6. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2017.07.002. [Epub ahead of print].
  10. https://health.gov/paguidelines/
  11. https://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/chapter4.aspx